It’s just before noon and I’ve already washed my hands a handful (sorry, too easy) of times. Keep in mind that I’m working from home and I’ve gone outside only once, for a coffee and a quick walk in the park. In 2020, when excessively clean paws have become a necessary norm, hand care in general feels like a brave new world. If, like me, you’re a novice at truly taking care of your digits, here’s what you should know—about keeping hands healthy, but also about saving your skin, rescuing your mani, and more. (In other words, this isn’t just another handwashing guide, promise.)
Never wash your hands with hot water.
While there is a technique to getting handwashing right (I won’t bore you with the already-known “Happy Birthday” method), one thing you don’t need to worry about is the temperature of your water. It doesn’t matter much, according to Michael Joshua Hendrix, MD, of Washington University School of Medicine, who says any water will do as long as it’s clean. Which is welcome news, because hot water strips your skin of moisture—something that’s been depleted by all that regular washing. Another hack for a gentler wash is to look for a moisture-rich cleanser. Soapbox Lavender and Marshmallow Root Soothing Moisture Liquid Hand Soap includes lavender, aloe, and shea butter to keep skin calm and hydrated. P.S. Don’t forget to completely dry your hands. According to the CDC, “Germs spread more easily when hands are wet.”
Choose a gentler sanitizer.
Hand sanitizers are clutch for keeping hands clean
on the go, but their high alcohol content (they need to be at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective) is also “extremely drying to the nails and skin,” Dr. Stern says. Luckily, the surge in sanitizer popularity means there are a lot more skin-friendly options to choose from. Case in point: Jao Refresher, which uses soothing and calming calendula, aloe, and chamomile extracts, along with a blend of essential oils for a more herbal—and less sterile—scent. As with soap and water, when it comes to applying sanitizer, you want to make sure you’re rubbing it across every inch of your hands; continue until hands are dry.
Reapply moisturizer every time you wash your hands.
Hands feeling tight and dry post-wash? That’s because soaps and sanitizers “strip the outer layer of the skin of its natural oils,” says Dana Stern, MD, a dermatologist who specializes in hand health. Think of it this way: “The skin cells are the bricks, and the mortar is the various lipids, including cholesterol and ceramides, that hold the cells together to create a barrier,” Dr. Stern says. And since cleansing your hands is vital, the best method for combating dry skin is moisturizing your hands as obsessively as you’re sanitizing them. Yep, every time you cleanse, follow up with a moisturizer. Look for one that contains ceramides and hyaluronic acid (a formula that mimics the skin’s natural “mortar” that Dr. Stern references) but leaves out fragrance or dyes that can cause irritation. CeraVe Therapeutic Hand Cream fits the bill and won’t leave your hands a slick, oily mess.
Be conscious of your cuticles.
All of this washing and can wreak havoc on your nails—particularly your cuticles (“the nail’s natural protective seal,” according to Dr. Stern). “When that seal becomes dry and dehydrated, it breaks, allowing water and moisture to enter the nail unit. That can lead to painful bacterial infections, redness, and swelling.” This is why Dr. Stern says you should never cut your cuticles but rather keep your cuticles healthy by pushing them back in the shower (when the skin is soft) and then applying a cuticle cream like Dr. Pawpaw Shea Butter Multipurpose Soothing Balm throughout the day. Feel as if your
DIY mani is fading faster than ever before? That’s also a result of constant cleansing. “Washing and sanitizing lead to faster chipping,” says nail artist Jin Soon Choi. The good news: Cuticle cream can give an assist here too. Choi recommends applying the cream all over cuticles and nails, and then reapplying a top coat every three days to keep that mani looking good as new.
Fake a salon mani with press-ons.
Manicured nails change your whole hand vibe. But whether you are in a hurry or still haven’t mastered that home-salon game, press-on nails might be your answer. Why:
They stay put: The newest versions of press-ons last through
a week’s worth of handwashing and have an adhesive backing that sticks right onto the nail.
No skills are required: Not a polish pro? No need to be—just push back your cuticles and swipe nails with polish remover before applying for a better grip.
You can match your mood: Most brands have multiple designs you can mix to create a look you may not normally want to commit to with a long-lasting gel mani.
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